Christian Dustmann and colleagues show that migrants from the A8 nations “have made a significant net contribution to the UK fiscal system.” This is because even those of them who are eligible for welfare benefits are much less likely to claim them than are native people. They are also much less likely to live in social housing.
Overall, they estimate that between 2005 and 2009, A8 migrants paid around £1.35 of tax for each pound of public spending they receive, whereas natives paid only around 90p.
You might object that these positive results are exaggerated, because A8 workers merely displace British-born workers. But this is just not true.
Are more reasonable objection is that not all migrants make as positive a contribution as A8 workers, partly because they have lower employment rates; Bob Rowthorn has estimated that, overall, the fiscal impact of immigration is around zero.
Even with this caveat, though, we can say two things.
First, the idea that immigrants put “pressure on public services” is pure bull. Of course, some do - but then, anything is true of some people. Taken as a whole, immigrants contribute as much to public services as they take out.
Secondly, there’s a large group of migrants who would help us reduce government borrowing. A party that was serious about cutting the deficit would therefore want more of this type of migration. Which poses the question: why, when all main political parties claim to want to reduce the deficit, do they also talk* tough on immigration?
It’s because cutting the deficit is not really a top priority at all - and certainly not a higher priority than appealing to the mob.
* Yes, I know much of Brown's speech was more positive and sensible about immigration than the BBC's headline.